Annalisa Hilliard and I sat down with industry colleague, Megan Vogias, a communication and marketing consultant with Evlogimenos, to discuss (what should be) a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing (and customer service). With experience in marketing and sales for brands like Little Tykes, Newell, Rubbermaid and Sylvan learning centers. Megan holds holistic views on how sales, marketing and customer service can lean on each other and drive each other’s success. Below are some highlights from our conversation.

Jen:

Let’s dive into the purpose of our conversation today, which is to talk about how marketing and sales should be working together. Obviously, Annalisa and I are marketers. So, we’re always coming at this from the marketing angle and sales enablement. Megan, you have been in both marketing and sales. Tell us about the dynamic between sales and marketing from your perspective.

Megan:

So, I want you to think of the McKinley Museum in Canton. There’s this really cool thing they demonstrate. It’s called Newton’s cradle. If you’ve ever looked at somebody’s desk, in a movie, or wherever, and you’ve seen those hits five to seven steel, little spheres or balls that hang and when you swing one from one side, it hits and ricochets off the other then it goes back and forth and creates momentum. It’s this crazy thing about the conservation of momentum and the conservation of energy. That’s how I visualize marketing and sales together. No matter which way you swing, you’re going to see a reaction. And you’ve got to keep that momentum going to keep the business moving and pivoting.

I always encourage sales people and marketing people to ask senior leaders, “What is your understanding of marketing and sales?” Because that’s going to tell you where you fit in terms of perception. For me, they’re locked together.

I had an internship at Little Tykes in Hudson, Ohio. And I think our entire team there at that time would say this: it was one of those times in life where fate and everybody was just kind of on the same page. So, I began to understand the relationships between customer service, sales, and marketing in a place I saw this this flourish. Since then, I’ve moved through organizations with that as my expectation.

Jen:

Sales, marketing, and customer service do function like a flywheel. That is what’s being talked about in our industry, rather than rather the funnel. When those three things are integrated and operating together, you can move an organization forward.

Megan:

Agreed. I know the US Small Business Administration says you should be spending 7-8% of your gross revenue on marketing and advertising. Well, okay. But if I’m a small business, I’m trying to save, right? But if I’m supposed to be spending that, what does that look like? For me, it goes back to exactly what you said: how are we (marketing, sales, and customer service) working together to enable sales, right? It goes back to the root of communication. Ssales can’t be flying solo, and marketing can’t be flying solo. They have to lean on each other.

Jen:

Megan, how do you define sales enablement?

Megan:

In working for Little Tykes and later Rubbermaid, I was representing more than 13 brands with over 25 stores at about 5 million in business. For me, sales enablement is having the tools, strategy, and capacity to communicate your messaging to various audiences.What customer-facing items do I have? What knowledge do I have? What questions can I answer? What questions can I ask (or do I need to ask)? It’s the how, the why, and the what that will help me leverage and link a customer’s need to our solutions.

Jen:

Marketers can learn so much from sales people, who are an amazing connection to the customer that marketers often don’t have. Annalisa and I don’t always get to talk directly to that end user or that customer, and sales folks do. I love gleaning their customer discovery knowledge, so that we can grow in our understanding of customer challenges and what they trying to accomplish in a given situation. How can we better improve our messaging, so that when a customer does come across a piece of marketing content, they immediately think, “This is the company or product I’ve been looking for. They know how to solve the problem I’m having. This is what I need.”  It goes back to that connection between sales and marketing. It’s key.

So, what do salespeople need most from marketing? The term “tools” is very broad.

Megan:

I think I’m gonna put on my trainer hat for this one. Let’s talk about it from when you’re training someone in sales and marketing. When you’re training them to understand that reciprocal reward and that relationship between the two (sales and marketing), you have to ask, “What is it going to take to help us discover what the customer wants and needs?”

As a trainer, I like to use the model of knowing our ABCD. A = Who’s my audience? B = What’s the behavior? C = What’s the content? D = What’s the delivery, or the deliverable? Some great questions to get at that include:

  • Who’s our audience? Who’s our key customer?
  • What are we expecting? Are we expecting them to buy a product? Or buy a process?
  • What’s the content? What data can I give them? What flyers do we have? What collateral what websites can I link them to? What resources can I share to position us as a business expert?
  • How do I deliver or disseminate this information? How are we getting it to our key customer? Is it face to face? Is it zoom? Are we following up? How is our brand resonating with them in different spaces? How do you measure if it’s working?

Annalisa:

Measurement always starts with business goals. They dictate what metrics we look at. You have to close that loop.

Jen:

Closing the loop is one of the biggest challenges we have as marketers, and sometimes that is where we see the disconnect between sales and marketing. When we say close the loop, what what you’re thinking? Because sometimes we don’t always have the data that we wish we had to close the loop.

Annalisa:

If you know you goals, you set up the tracking to follow key data points. That way after you’ve implemented your marketing plan, you can access the data that tells you if you’re successful.

Jen:

You’re talking about thinking way ahead, right? Because I feel like so many people in marketing launch ideas without any plan for measurement.

Annalisa:

Of course, it’s never too late to add data. But starting with data at the beginning is always the better way to go. Determine what you want to track and why that metric is meaningful in light of your goals.

Megan:

I think it’s different for each department. There are layers. What are you tracking? And what does success look like for you? In my work with Sylvan, parents would say to me, “I just want them to be a better student.” But what is better? Because better to me might be different than what’s better to the family. When I was in a marketing role, I measured something different than I’m measuring in sales. Are you expecting a behavior or you were expecting a monetary result? It goes back to learning how to communicate between the two. Those are two different mindsets.

Jen:

That’s part of what I was getting at earlier in terms of closing the loop. Let’s turn this around. What can sales do for me as a marketer? They can help me understand what’s what’s happening with the metrics that matter most to them. And I feel like that’s a piece we don’t often get, even though we ask for it.

Annalisa:

Other information that’s incredibly helpful: what’s the cost of a lead? What’s the average lifetime value of a customer? Etcetera.

Megan:

I also think we need visuals, right? We need to illustrate things. Because sales people are so pie in the sky sometimes. And I say this being a salesperson. I’m a big picture thinker. I always have been, I always will be. But that’s why I love marketing because they can help chunk it out. As a marketer, you always should be thinking six months, nine months out. How are we planning that next campaign while the current campaign is in full swing? I think that’s the difference between sales and marketing to your point. Because there’s just a difference in their reality. Marketing reality is I’m planning nine months, whereas a salesperson may be planning follow-up for a week to three weeks out. Good marketers are like, “That’s great. I’m already promoting Christmas.”

Annalisa:

Right. And that’s definitely become part of our process and our business, like a core of who we are just because, again, that’s, I feel like that’s how we show our value. We can prove our return by looking at those data points and bringing in the details.

Jen:

And I think that speaks also to something we’ve talked about previously, which is the long game that marketing actually is. Megan, I love your point that in the sales person’s mind, they have goals and long-term thinking, of course, but that may be not where they’re focusing most of the time. Whereas as a marketer, I’m always thinking long game, six to 12 months down the road.

Megan:

I think that’s the mindset we need to bring. If we learn to lean on each other, we really can help each other leverage growth, right? The first people I often ask to talk to when I join a company are the marketers? What are their trends? Can I see their campaign calendar? Because as a sales person, that helps me feel more confident on anticipating what could be doing next.

Jen:

After being marketers for so long, Annalisa and I know we need to talk to a new client’s sales team right out of the gate. We want to talk to them. We want to hear what their concerns are, what their goals are.

Megan:

More than that, I think you want to listen. I think that’s what makes you and Annalisa so exceptional is you listen before you talk. You ask questions.

Jen:

I’m definitely into asking questions. Then I want to be quiet and listen.

Annalisa:

90% is asking questions and listening.

Jen:

Would you say, Megan, that your top advice for marketers is to listen more and talk less?

Megan:

I think that’s one thing. But this is my biggest thing: this is not a competition, people. At the end of the day, we both want the same thing. It shouldn’t be a competition between sales and marketing. It should be a partnership. It should be a healthy relationship where you balance each other. My advice to both sides of the table would be to always ask, What can I do to set you up for success? Get in the same playbook.

Also, don’t be afraid to change. If what I’m doing is not working, whether it’s customer facing or marketing (or, to your point, Annalisa, when you’re looking at that data and realize you haven’t been measuring the right things), what do we need to do to pivot and adapt. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s how quickly we need to pivot and how agile we need to be. Get comfortable getting uncomfortable. It’s professional, not personal. We need to change the tool, not the person.

Jen:

I really love that. Because I think it’s so easy to take things personally. And we say to new clients, when we set expectations, that not every idea is going to work right away, or out of the box. And it’s okay to look at the data or to look at whatever your metrics are, and say we need to give it time.

Annalisa:

And we can learn from failure. Don’t let the data drive your strategy, right? But let it inform your strategy.